Russia warns of 'very long' war in Yemen

Around 6,400 people have been killed in the Yemen conflict since March 2015, according to the United Nations (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais) (AFP)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - Russia warned Thursday the war in Yemen could grind on for a "very long time" because of the government's insistence on conditions for a ceasefire.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, speaking to reporters after a UN Security Council meeting on the Yemen crisis, told reporters he was concerned that prospects for peace talks were dim.

"We hear that the government does not want to have a ceasefire until there is a comprehensive settlement," Churkin said.

"This is a recipe for a very long conflict which will have even more dramatic results," he said.

Russia has repeatedly criticized the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen that was launched last March to push back Iranian-backed Huthi rebels.

More than 6,000 people have been killed in the conflict. It has brought the country to its knees, with more than 80 percent of the population in dire need of food, medicine or other basic necessities.

Russia abstained, but did not veto, a Saudi-backed resolution adopted last year that demands that the Huthi rebels withdraw from all territory seized in their campaign.

That resolution, Churkin said, "is being used essentially to continue the military campaign" by the Saudi-led coalition.

UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed last month told the council that he was hoping to convene peace talks this month to follow up on a first round of consultations held in Switzerland in January.

But the envoy did not announce a date for new talks during his closed-door briefing to the council, diplomats said.

Yemen's Ambassador Khaled Alyemany said his government was ready to take part in talks but accused the rebels of failing to fulfill their commitment to release detainees among other confidence-building measures.

Alyemany accused the Huthis of blocking aid convoys and looting relief supplies that he said were being sold on the black market.

"The putschist militias are acting like war criminals. They are using starvation as a tool of war against my people in every province under their control," he told the council.

Angolan Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins, whose country holds the council presidency this month, told reporters that "a speedy cessation of hostilities is a must" in Yemen.

Deploring the "extremely grave" humanitarian crisis, Gaspar Martins said the council was considering a new resolution to press for more aid to reach Yemen and to stress the importance of protecting hospitals from attacks.

The UN envoy is due to return to Saudi Arabia on Friday for more talks on the ceasefire and other confidence-building measures, diplomats said.